A common presenting complaint for cats is the issue of urinating outside the litter box. This can be a very frustrating problem for owners to deal with. It can disrupt a household and put a strain on the human-feline relationship. Determining the underlying reason can be a complex puzzle with multiple pieces.
Obtaining a Urine Sample
A clean sample of the patient’s urine must be collected and analyzed for the presence bacteria, crystals, WBCs, RBCs, and other important values. Obtaining that sample has its challenges. We often employ a urine collection kit with non-absorbent plastic litter in a clean litter box. This may take some time as the patient is not accustomed to this setup and often holds their urine. If this method is unsuccessful, we may need to retrieve a sample via cystocentesis, carefully sticking a needle directly into the bladder, often guided by ultrasound, to extract an uncontaminated sample.
Urinary Tract Infection
The first thing to rule out with urinary issues is a urinary tract infection. UTIs are regularly treated with antibiotics, but isolating which bacteria is present in the urine indicates which antibiotic is needed. This is why a culture of the urine is often recommended.
Bladder stones develop when the pH of the urine is unbalanced, and an overabundance of minerals start to merge and harden. This problem can be diagnosed by taking a radiograph or ultrasound of the bladder. They are usually treated with surgical removal or diets specially formulated to dissolve the particular compound.
Another value that is measured in a urinalysis is the presence of glucose in the urine. This can clue us in that diabetes may be on the differential. Glucose in the urine can be due to stress, so more testing is required to definitively diagnose the disease. A symptom of diabetes is frequent urination, which may lead the patient needing to go when a litter box is not convenient.
Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are common ailments in cats. Both have symptoms of frequent urination. The frequency or urgency leaves them little time to make it to the box and instead turning to the nearest available location. A low specific gravity of the urine may indicate the need to run blood work to check kidney function.
The urethra is a small tube leading from the bladder to the outside world. It can become plugged with mucous and/or crystals, blocking the flow of urine. Since the kidneys filter toxins from the body and eliminate them through the bladder, the inability to urinate can cause a build up of toxins in the body. This is a serious and life-threatening condition.
FIC- Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
Idiopathic means that we do not know the cause of inflammation in the bladder. This diagnosis is reached when other conditions have been eliminated. Treatment options may include anti-inflammatory pain medication, diet change, and environmental enrichment. Since cats are notorious for not drinking enough, encouraging increased water intake can help flush out the bladder.
Behavioral problems can be the most challenging to diagnose and resolve. Cats are creatures of habit and do not like variations to their routine. Even something small like moving the furniture around in the living room can stress them out. A larger change like a new human or animal in the household or moving can be even more upsetting.
With the invention of new products that relieve stress, we have more tools in our toolbox. Here are some examples:
Specialized Diets- Hill’s Feline c/d stress management or Royal Canin Urinary SO + Calm
Probiotics- Purina Calming Care®
Pheromone- Feliway® Spray or Plug-in
Pharmaceuticals- Fluoxetine, Gabapentin, etc.
Litter Box Aversion
Even after symptoms of a UTI or other issue have resolved, the patient may still associate the litter box with the pain caused from that issue. Moving their litter box to a new spot or offering them a new one may help them overcome this aversion.
Felines prefer a quiet, private place to do their business. If the litter box is in an area of high traffic or noisy area of your house, your cat may just need a change of scenery. If they are frequently eliminating in a specific spot in the house, move their litter box to that spot as it just may be where they feel most comfortable. The type of litter you use can be unfavorable to a cat.
If a senior cat is having urinary issues and medical conditions have been ruled out, we investigate age related issues. Cognitive dysfunction may mean the cat is forgetting where to go or even getting lost in your house and unable to find the box. Try offering more litter boxes and placing them in areas around the house they most frequent. Arthritis can also play a role. They may be having difficulty getting in and out of the box. Consider a box with shorter sides or one that is wider allowing easier movement in and around. Make sure they have a box available on each level of the house in case they are unable to navigate the stairs.
In summary, inappropriate urination may just be the cat’s way of telling you that there is something wrong. There are other issues not on this list that could be the underlying problem. The important part is to observe the cat’s behaviors or reactions to treatment and communicate your findings with your veterinarian. Together, we can add up the pieces to the puzzle to paint the complete picture.
Arthritis is a common problem for both cats and dogs. We have gathered some information to help you identify the symptoms and take action to keep your pet enjoying their normal daily activities.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects joints. It is characterized by the breaking down of smooth cartilage that covers and protects the bones that form a joint. Any stress on the joint will increase the rate of degeneration. Once the cartilage is gone the bones grind against each other with regular movement, making even the slightest movement quite painful.
Limping, lameness, or favoring certain limbs
Showing stiffness or discomfort when getting up from a lying-down position
Stiff, swollen or sore joints
Painful when touched in certain areas
Uncomfortable or painful in certain positions
Loss of flexibility in their joints
Hesitation to jump, run or climb stairs
Arthritis is a common ailment and should be discussed during your pet’s annual physical exam as they get older. Radiographs, as well as other diagnostic tests, can help determine the cause and location of the inflammation. The patient’s medical history, such as previous injuries or possible congenital conditions, can help your veterinarian determine the type of arthritis and best course of treatment.
Dislocation or Trauma
Congenital conditions such as hip dysplasia
Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis (IMPA)
Ligament, tendon or muscle injury
Fracture of a bone that involves a joint
Aging and natural erosion of cartilage
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight may help prevent arthritis or slow its progression once the condition has developed. However, arthritic conditions cannot always be predicted or prevented, especially those that are congenital. Genetic tests are available to determine if your pet has the specific genetic markers and is at risk for developing these conditions.
Once arthritis has developed, there is no cure. The goal then is to prevent progression of the disease and minimize your pet’s pain. Some treatment options may include:
Prescription medication such as analgesics or anti-inflammatories
Nutritional supplements such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin or Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Physical Therapy or regular, low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming
Weight loss, if necessary
Holistics Treatments such as Acupuncture, Herbal medications, & other alternative therapies
Note: Advil (Ibuprofen), Tylenol (Acetaminophen), & Aleve (Naproxen) are toxic and NEVER should be given to pets. Do not give your pet any other human over-the-counter medications without first checking with your veterinarian.
Feline Note: Cats are more sensitive to drugs and should only be given medication and supplements intended for use in cats.
At home suggestions to make your pet more comfortable:
Provide proper bedding such as an orthopedic foam bed
Have short, gentle play sessions
Provide gentle massages and physical therapy
Elevate food and water to shoulder level
Groom the areas that may be hard to reach
Provide ramps in place of stairs or a place they usually jump up to
Daily low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming
For cats, provide a little box with shorter walls
If you notice any of these symptoms or changes in daily routine, your pet’s yearly physical exam is a perfect opportunity to discuss these issues with your veterinarian. Give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.
Our feline friends live an average of 12-18 years, while some live into their 20s. Senior and geriatric cats need some special considerations regarding their daily care. Here are some tips to help keep your elderly companion happy, healthy, and comfortable well into their golden years.
A cat’s nutritional needs change throughout their lifetime. Older felines need less calories since it doesn’t take much energy to sleep an average of 20 hours a day. Senior cat food usually contains increased fiber as well as vitamins and essential fatty acids. Prescription foods formulated for specific health conditions are available with restricted or added ingredients that support the nutritional needs of the patient.
Most common diseases in older cats:
Dental Disease- Cats can get painful holes in their teeth, broken teeth, gum disease and oral tumors that significantly affect their quality of life.
Felines are notorious for not drinking enough water. Dehydration can lead to or exacerbate chronic medical conditions such as kidney failure. Some cats can be finicky and require fresh, clean water. Adding in a water fountain can encourage them to drink. Canned food contains more moisture and can be added to their diet to increase water intake.
The pain of arthritis can limit geriatric cat’s movements. It may become difficult to jump up on counters and tables or even manage stairs. The location of their food, water, and litter box may need to change. Keep it on the level of your house that they frequent most or provide one on each level. If they have neck or spinal issues, have bowls raised to shoulder level. The height of the sides of their litter box can affect their ability to move in and out freely. Finding a shorter, wider litter box can decrease the likelihood of inappropriate elimination.
Senior cats can lose the ability to fully retract their claws due to arthritis, injury, or infection. Keeping the nails trimmed can reduce the instances of getting caught in carpet. Cut any loose strings or loops on carpet or rugs. If unable to use a scratching surface, the nails may grow too long and penetrate the paw pad.
There are products on the market that can help ease your cat’s arthritis pain. Many of them contain Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Prescription pain medications may be prescribed by your cat’s veterinarian. Feline patients should have cat specific medications and supplements as they are more sensitive and metabolize drugs differently.
Elder felines may need a little assistance in the grooming department. Arthritis, obesity, and other conditions can inhibit cats from reaching certain spots for grooming. Often mats develop on the lower back, abdomen, and around the rear end. You may need to assist by combing or brushing these areas. They also may need help bathing their rear ends. Using a baby wipe or wet wash cloth, gently wipe their rectums. Longer haired cats may need to be trimmed to keep tidy.
Increase Visit frequency
Since problems can sneak up quickly, it may be necessary to bring your senior cat to the vet more frequently for physical exams. Keeping a close eye on their normal behaviors at home and noting any deviations can help expose issues sooner. Blood work may be recommended by your cat’s veterinarian as they are excellent at hiding illness. Catching a disease in early stages can increase the success of treatment, improve quality of life, and extend their life expectancy.
Behaviors to Monitor:
Changes in appetite
Weight loss or gain
Urination & Defecation- amounts and locations
Stiffness, difficulty jumping up or with stairs
Poor coat, decreased grooming
You cat’s annual physical exam is an opportune time to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. It can be helpful to make a list of behavior changes to address. Give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.
A very common subject of phone calls received at veterinary clinics is a pet that is “scooting”. A common misconception is that it has worms, but often the cause is anal glands that need expressing. Most people are not even aware that pets have anal glands and what they do.
Purpose & Location
Anal glands are small sacs located just inside the rectum with ducts that exit at the anus. Also called the “scent glands”, they produce a foul-smelling, yellow to brown colored, liquid substance used for marking. The contents are excreted with the pressure of a normal, firm bowel movement. Most pets do not have issues expressing the material on their own. However, due to loose stools, allergies, diet, or differing anatomy, some patients need help expressing the glands. Anal glands can become impacted, infected, and can abscess. Also, leaks can occur when pets are either very relaxed or scared/startled.
Some symptoms are very noticeable, while others are more subtle. Pet’s may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
Excessive licking at rear end
Sudden need to sit down
The glands will need to be expressed manually if the patient cannot express them naturally. Though this can be done from the outside, it is much more successful to express them internally. It is highly recommended that a veterinary professional express them, but with proper training and patient cooperation a client can do them at home. If any abnormalities are noticed, please seek veterinary care.
Abscessed anal glands may need oral antibiotics, and in severe cases may need to be infused with liquid antibiotics. Most patients will need to be sedated for this procedure. Tumors can also develop in or around the anal glands, which is a good reason to have them expressed by a veterinary professional.
There are multiple products on the market that claim to alleviate anal gland issues. The key ingredient in all of them is fiber. Fiber helps to keeps pet’s gastrointestinal system regular, which helps to naturally express the glands. A low-cost home remedy would be to add a small amount of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) to your pet’s diet.
For patients with known anal glands issues, expressing them regularly can prevent them from becoming impacted and abscessing. All patients are different, but it is common to need expressing monthly. If your pet is having anal gland issues, give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.
April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. We have created a list of items to keep at home or in your field first aid kit.
Having the correct materials and knowing how to use them can make a big difference in wound management. A pressure wrap can help to control or minimize bleeding. Bandaging can be helpful in protecting a wound from contamination as well as from the patient licking it. Bandages should be removed if they become too tight or swelling is observed, or if they become dirty or wet.
A non-adhesive pad (such as a Telfa pad) should be placed over the wound itself, then a stretch bandage (Example: Vetrap®) material can be used to keep it in place. When bandaging an extremity, start at the bottom and work your way up to avoid constriction. A tape can be used to reinforce the ends. When actual bandage materials are unavailable, items such as lady’s maxi pads and a little duct tape may suffice in an emergency.
A dog and cat’s normal rectal temperature is about 99-103 degrees Fahrenheit. An increased temp is hyperthermia and decreased is hypothermia. Warming or cooling of the patient should start immediately if able. The patient’s temperature can be helpful information when calling your veterinarian and can aid in diagnosis.
Aspirin is an over-the-counter medication that can be given to dogs that have a sprain/strain or are sore after hunting. Call your veterinarian for dosing. Long term use of Aspirin may cause stomach upset or ulcers. Never use Aspirin in conjunction with steroids (Prednisone) or other pain meds. Aspirin should not be given to cats. Prescription anti-inflammatory medications, such as Vetprofen/Carprofen or Rimadyl, are more effective but must be prescribed by your veterinarian.
NEVER give pets Ibuprofen (Advil®), Acetaminophen (Tylenol®), or Naproxen (Aleve®).
Benadryl® (Diphenhydramine) is an over-the-counter antihistamine frequently used for symptoms related to allergies including hives, facial swelling, rashes, etc. It is usually found in 25 mg tablet or capsule form at most pharmacies, but for dogs under 12 pounds, the children’s liquid may be easier to dose. Contact your veterinarian for dosing.
Nail Trimmer & Styptic Powder
Having your own nail trimmer at home can come in handy for broken nails. Styptic powder (Kwik Stop®) is a product that helps stop bleeding when nails are clipped too short. Baby powder, corn starch, or baking flour can be used in place of styptic powder but are less effective. Styptic powder should not be used on large or deep wounds.
A hemostat is a practical tool to include in a first aid kit. It can aid in removing porcupine quills, slivers, weed seeds, etc. In a pinch, a needle-nose plier can stand in for a hemostat. Hemostats can be purchased in the fishing department or at any bait & tackle store.
Helpful tip: Do not cut porcupine quills off before removing. Pull the quills straight out with slow, steady pressure.
A pair of bandage or athletic scissors can make removing bandages much easier. Different from regular scissors, they have a protective edge that shields the patient from the sharp blades of the scissors. They can also be used in case a collar or hunting vest gets caught and needs to be cut off.
An ophthalmic saline solution can be used to flush debris out of eyes. This can be useful to remove weed seeds, pollen, and other eye irritants. With any eye injury, a veterinarian should examine the eye promptly for corneal scratches or stuck foreign material. Do not use Visine® or any other contact solution.
Even the nicest pets may bite when they are fearful or painful. A properly fitting muzzle helps protect you from getting bit, but please still use caution and firm restraint. Muzzles are also helpful in distracting your pet while performing procedures.
E-collar vs Clothing
A pet can do more harm than good when licking or chewing at a wound, abrasion, lump, etc. Protecting the affected area from the pet can be just as important as protecting it from the elements. Having an E-collar available can be a great advantage. In place of an E-collar, a T-shirt can be worn by your pet to prevent it from licking or scratching a wound on its chest or abdomen. A sock or booty on the foot can prevent the pet from using that paw to scratch with or prevent them from getting to a wound on the foot.
Hydrogen peroxide has multiple uses. It can be used to rinse debris out of a wound, though it can be irritating. Peroxide can be used orally to induce vomiting if your pet ingests a toxin or foreign body. Consult your veterinarian promptly if your pet has ingested a toxin or foreign body. Peroxide is also an ingredient in the home remedy for a “skunk bath” (peroxide, baking soda, dish soap).
A dilute Betadine or Iodine solution is useful when cleaning and flushing out wounds. It has antibacterial properties and is less irritating than peroxide.
Dogs do not sweat from their body like we do; they only sweat through their paw pads. Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol can be applied to the pet’s paws when overheated. As it evaporates, the alcohol pulls heat away from the body, mimicking the effects of sweating.
Carefully trimming the hair around injuries can help you assess how extensive it is. Letting air reach certain wounds can allow them to heal quicker. Trimming matted fur can prevent a hidden infection underneath. Please do not use scissors to trim mats.
Your pet’s annual physical is a great time to discuss with your veterinarian which items would be more important for your pet. If you have any questions on specific products, please bring them along to your appointment. Give us a call at (218)444-5797 to schedule an appointment.
There are so many different flea & tick products on the market currently with a wide variety of active ingredients. Some would assume that if they are marketed for pets, they would be safe for all pets. This is not necessarily true. Cats are much more sensitive than dogs and can have severe reactions to canine flea & tick products. Patients with chronic medical conditions, such as seizures, can also respond differently to medications.
Store Brand vs Prescription
There are numerous benefits of using prescription flea & tick prevention from your veterinarian. Most prescription medications are more effective than over-the-counter treatments. Your pet’s veterinarian can recommend the right product based on their lifestyle and medical conditions. When you purchase through your veterinarian, the product is recorded in your pet’s medical records. Having accurate record of what was administered and when is valuable since most companies offer guarantees on their products. Also, drug companies often offer better rebates when buying through a veterinarian.
Unfortunately, when buying products through untrusted online sources, consumers risk receiving counterfeit products. The counterfeit products have little to none of the desired effect, which can leave your pet exposed to serious diseases. When shopping online, be sure to purchase only from trusted sources and inspect the product closely upon arrival.
Topical medications & collars are popular amongst flea & tick products. Some contain Permethrins, Organophosphates, or Amitraz as the active ingredient. All of these are extremely toxic to cats. Any medication containing permethrins should never be applied to cats. Also, cats should be kept away from dogs who have been treated for at least 72 hours to avoid accidental contact. Exposure can affect a cat’s nervous system and cause severe illness.
Tremors, shaking, or twitching
Ataxic- uncoordinated, acting “drunk”
Hypersensitive to touch
If left untreated, can results in death
Correct Dosing & Route of Administration
When used inappropriately, any medication can be toxic to the patient. Most products are dosed based on the patient’s weight. Pets who inadvertently ingest a topical medication or collar can become extremely ill. Toxicity can affect the nervous system, gastrointestinal system, and/or cardiac function with symptoms including:
Ataxic- uncoordinated, acting “drunk”
Slow heart rate
Low or high blood pressure
Some prefer a more natural approach to flea & tick prevention. Although not nearly as effective, holistic remedies can work for pets with minimal exposure. There are products available that have peppermint, lemongrass, cedarwood, and other essential oils as their main ingredient which claim to repel mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Please be aware that some oils, for example Tea Tree Oil, can also be toxic to pets. Read more about toxic oils on our blog “Essential Oils & Diffusers”.
Here is a list of key points to take away from this blog.
Never use dog products on cats.
Use products only as directed on the label.
Monitor your pets after use.
Report any adverse reactions to the company.
Use the appropriate dose for your pet’s weight.
Consult a veterinarian before product use in pets with chronic medical conditions.
Most prescription medications are more effective than over-the-counter treatments.
If your pet is having a reaction to a flea & tick medication:
If the product is a collar, remove it immediately.